Alligator attacks ‘more often fatal’ than shark attacks

Alligator attacks ‘more often fatal’ than shark attacks
September 20 14:51 2016 Print This Article

According to the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida in Gainesville, there are more shark attacks in United States waters, but alligator attacks are more often fatal.

Unprovoked alligator bites in Florida have been on the rise in recent years, according to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. What could this mean for South Carolinians?

An alligator over 13-feet in length and weighing 604 pounds was removed from the Ashley River over the weekend near the Kings Grant subdivision and the popular Jessen boat landing in Summerville. Fortunately, nobody was harmed by the animal before its removal.

This past July, however, a 90-year-old Bonnie Walker was killed by an alligator after disappearing from Brookdale Senior Living Center in West Ashley. According to Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten, Walker likely slipped or fell into the pond when the alligator attacked her.

Spotting one of the reptiles is becoming less rare in the suburban shallows of the upper Ashley and surrounding ponds. Alligators can make their way from heavily wooded swamp areas into surrounding Lowcountry neighborhoods under the cover of darkness, going practically unnoticed.

According to historic data, 100,000 are currently estimated to prowl waterways in the coastal counties. That number is at best a guess and could be much higher. While alligators are highly territorial and have been known to attack, fatalities are relatively rare. Yet more and more gators get pulled from Lowcountry waters each fall during the state hunt.

“While [alligators] are predators, they primarily prey upon animals that are aquatic just like they are,” says animal expert Jeff Corwin. “[This includes] animals like turtles or fish or birds or amphibians, even small mammals like raccoons.”

There have been several reports over the last few years of dogs being grabbed near residential retention ponds. Joanna Robbs’ German Shepard, Dutchess, was attacked near a Lowcountry pond in 2010.

“If an alligator can grab an 80-pound dog, it can grab a 50-pound child,” said Robbs. “Usually they tell us [alligators] are more afraid of humans and pets than anything else. Clearly, this isn’t the case.”

Observe these general rules:

  • Don’t let children or pets approach water that may be inhabited by alligators.
  • Avoid swimming outside posted swimming areas, and avoid swimming at dusk or at night when alligators are actively looking for food.
  • Don’t feed alligators or throw food near the banks of waterways.
  • Don’t attempt to remove alligators from their natural habitat.

If you see an alligator, call the Department of Natural Resources Charleston office immediately at (843) 953-5291.